When we think about decluttering our homes, we tend to focus on the all the stuff we need to get rid of. But how did all of that “junk” get there in the first place?
Junk doesn’t walk into our homes un-invited. You open the door and—whoosh!—in it comes, carried by your own two hands. As master or mistress of your own domain, try these eight practical ways to un-invite junk from your home.
Set limits on items that tend to accumulate
How many grocery bags does a household need? Pick a number, any number. Then return extras to the grocery store. Return wire hangers to the dry cleaner while you’re at it. And just say no to those promotional freebies. (Think pens, key rings, coffee mugs, and tote bags with company logos.)
Reduce incoming mail
Opt for paperless statements from banks and credit card companies, financial investments, and utility companies. Cancel subscriptions to magazines that you haven’t read in the last three months. If you’re getting a lot of junk mail, request to have your name removed from mailing lists at dmachoice.org
Plan your purchases
How often do you buy on impulse only to discover that you really don’t like or need what you bought? If you “shop ‘til you drop,” clutter is the price you pay. Go shopping with a list and buy only what’s on your list. Keep in mind that today’s unplanned purchases inevitably become tomorrow’s junk.
Buying some things in bulk makes sense if you have the space to store them. But for some items that deteriorate over time and lose their effectiveness, it’s better to buy only what you expect to use before their “expiration” dates. Liquid laundry detergent, for example, has a shelf life of up to a year if unopened and six months after opening. So more isn’t always better—even if it’s on sale.
Aim to inspire rather than impress
No matter how much you acquire, there’s always more to be had. More inspiring is to embrace the “less is more” philosophy. Better to have fewer possessions that you love and use than a house full of stuff that’s just taking up valuable space. This concept works especially well for your wardrobe: A few key, high-quality pieces will serve you much better than a closet stuffed with poorly made, trendy clothes.
Turn clutter into cash
Donate unused, unloved items to charity. If qualified, you can write-off up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income on your tax return. Or turn that clutter into instant cash. Those cell phones in your junk drawer? Sell them on eBay along with other items in high demand such as designer purses.
Commit to the “one in/one out” rule
For every item you invite into your home, send one item packing (or two if you’re really on a decluttering roll.) The more you exercise that “letting go” muscle, the stronger you become and the easier it gets to let go of junk. Recognize your weak spots—perhaps you collect shoes or hats?—and be sure to enforce this rule to avoid getting buried beneath a pile of stuff.
Live for today
Aim to surround yourself with only those things that are meaningful to you today. There’s a reason why stuff from your past is collecting dust. And if you’re saving things just in case you might need them someday? That’s a really big “if.” Let them go.
Donna Smallin Kuper is a best-selling author on how to live an uncluttered life. She’s also an organization expert for eBay.com, a great place for ladies to apply the “one in/one out” rule to their wardrobe.